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General Business

Bouncing Back after a Hurricane

If you sustained financial and personal losses from a hurricane, one of the most difficult challenges you face is to get your life back to normal. Storms destroy thousands and thousands of homes. Businesses are upended. Sometimes it even takes lives. Even thinking about the losses can make the strongest person melt down and cry. If you are facing this situation, you deserve a time to come to grips with the magnitude of the situation.

But after a while, you have to face the reality of the situation and make plans to continue your life, your job, your family, and if you own a business, you must get on with that too. Before discussing financial and business plans, it is important to talk about people that have a family with young children living at home. It is so important to be their guiding light. Help your kids to feel safe and understand that the future is bright.  If you do not believe this, dig deep within yourself and put on a brave face. Find someone to talk to about turning your life around. You might need to find a family member, a minister, a social worker or a mental health professional. Do not feel bad about asking for help or needing to talk to someone. Recovering from a natural disaster can be as difficult mentally as a loved one’s death. If you did lose a loved one in a natural disaster, my heart goes out to you. You too should work to live life to its fullest. There are people that care for you and want to help.

There is no perfect step-by-step method to getting your life back in order. With that thought in mind, the following information is in an outline form. Use it as a guide. It is up to you to fill in the details that best fit your personal and financial recovery. The first step in any disaster recovery is to assess your financial situation.

Where do you have available cash?


If you have CD’s and you need to access them, ask if your bank or credit union will waive their early withdrawal fee.

Mutual funds, stocks, and bonds.

If you have any funds that are losing, this may be time to take the tax loss and use the cash value. Tax loss harvesting can be a complicated matter. Ask a financial adviser or accountant if you need more detailed help. The key to this aspect is keeping track of your losses and gains so it can be reported when you file your income taxes.

Life insurance cash value

If you have a whole life insurance policy, see if you have a dividend cash value. This may be cashed in without a loan. Note that loans on life insurance policies do have interest and some life insurance companies pay lower dividends to customers that take loans.

Retirement accounts

Many retirement accounts do have special hardship provisions. Although remember that if you do take retirement cash values, it may seriously affect your future retirement. If you must take money out, by all means, do take it. Just be aware of the consequences. If you would like more information on retirement plan loans and hardship withdrawals, read my blog post “Don’t let Harvey take a bite out of your retirement.”

What insurance do you have and what will it cover. What is your deductible?

a.     Liability insurance

b.    Flood insurance

c.     Wind damage insurance

What are your expenses right now?

a.  Current expected living expenses

b.  Can you live in your home?

c.  Do you need to make arrangements to live with a relative or rent a home? How will you pay for those expenses?

d.  Food budget – this can be one of your biggest expenses. Eating out may have been a necessity after the hurricane, however, make a food budget and stick to it. Your family will be healthier, and you will save money.

e.  Transportation – Does your vehicle need repair? Did your vehicle sit in water that came to the bottom of the door? When water is high, it can seep into vital working components and cause expensive damage. Your vehicle needs to be inspected by a mechanic even if it appears to be running well. Do you have insurance and what is the deductible? Do you need a rental car or can you borrow a car?

f.  Child expenses – Do you have education expenses or child care expenses? After a natural disaster, you may need to find different child care if your previous child care business is not operating. What are your children’s extracurricular activity expenses and will they continue?

What do you owe?

a.  This must be one of the hardest aspects of rebuilding after a hurricane. If your home has major damage and you have a mortgage on it, you still must pay the mortgage.

b.  Make a list of what you owe along with the contact numbers of the creditors.

c.   If you can continue to pay payments, do so. If you need an extension, contact your creditor first. Do not wait for them to call you. Creditors that have customers in disaster areas know people are hurting financially and most will be willing to work with you. Perhaps you can work out a lower payment or a delay in payment.

d.  If you can continue making payments to your creditor, do it. Many student loan creditors have already contacted student loan holders to let them know that they have an automatic grace period on paying back their loan. However, one important point is not mentioned. The interest continues to add up. Do not take an automatic extension if you do not need it.

Do not forget your taxes. 

Property taxes still must be paid. If you pay quarterly income taxes, you can adjust your payments based on your expected income. If you can foresee that you will need an extension, take what is available. However, as with most creditors, do not use the hurricane as an excuse to put off what must be done. Interest will continue to grow on what you owe.

Do not overlook taking personal and business casualty tax losses. The floor for personal liability losses is 10% of your adjusted gross income. There is no limit for business losses. If you are not sure how to take tax losses, it is important to talk to a tax professional.

One item often overlooked for personal losses is clothing. Most garments that are damaged from flood water need to be thrown out because they will become contaminated with mold. Document every item, it all has a value. If you are not sure what value to use, refer to the IRS’s clothing valuation for donations. That may give you some idea as to what valuation to use for a loss.

Detail everything that is a loss of from your home and business. Taking pictures of every item may be labor intensive however it may save you a lot when it comes time to file your taxes. You must be able to prove any loss you claim.

Getting back to work.

After you have accessed your readily available assets, you should consider your employment status. Is your employer open and is your job continuing? If you are a small business owner and you are rebuilding, this may seem like a crazy idea. However, ask yourself, is it time to get another job while you rebuild your business? If you can get a second source of income going, this is the time to do it. An additional job does not have to be in your current line of work. One of the most readily available jobs will be sales, even if it is telemarketing. Just make sure it is not straight commission (unless you consider yourself a selling wiz). This is supposed to be a second income, not a head and heart ache. Every job or career has something to do with sales, so a second job in sales may help you get your small business back on track.

Make a budget

If you had a budget, it probably needs a lot of revision. If you do not have a budget now is the time to start. Trying to pay off debt and rebuild your finances after a disaster without a budget is like running east and looking for a sunset. You will work yourself to death and never know if what you are doing is working.

Creating a budget is easy. The simplest budget tool I have found is an app called Mint, and it is at the right price, it is free. If you are electronically challenged, I would still suggest you try Mint. You have nothing to lose but a little time. If computer apps are outside of your comfort zone, then make a written budget. It does not need to be complicated. List what you owe and your sources of income. If what you owe is bigger than your income, go back and rework the list of what you owe. Contact the creditors and cut expenses if necessary.

Budgeting is an ongoing process, not a once a year exercise. At least once a month, take the time to review what is working and what is not. Do you need to be more mindful of spending in one area of your life?

As you look for ways to cut expenses, remember that there are some costs that you need to keep. Insurance is one of those areas. If you have more than one vehicle that was damaged by water, will you replace each one immediately? If the answer is no, then suspend the coverage on vehicles that are just sitting. I would not recommend dropping coverage. However many liability carriers will allow you to suspend coverage for vehicles that are not being driven. Contact your insurance agent and ask for help in making this determination.

If you have life and disability insurance, do not drop it if possible. If you have cash value policies, talk to your agent to see if the premiums can be lowered. Universal life policies may allow you to make lower payments and whole life policies may permit you to pay premiums with cash value or policy loans. Do not drop coverage to start a new policy until you have a replacement. Older permanent policies cannot be repurchased at the same rate, and you will more than likely lose some value. If you must make a change, ask your agent if there is a commission to be paid on the new policy. Some life insurance carriers will waive commissions on internal replacements. Although if your new policy is not cheaper than what you can purchase on the open market, they are not doing you any favors. You may need to find a new life insurance carrier. If your income has changed and you need to get a cheaper policy that is a good reason to change policies, however, be comfortable with any changes you make. The same goes for term life insurance. If it is a policy you have had for a long time, there may or may not be something cheaper available. You may need to do some shopping for coverage.  This is an important point that bears repeating, do not if you are applying for new insurance, do not discontinue your existing insurance until the new insurance is delivered and paid.

Everybody’s situation is a little different, so it is impossible to detail every aspect of rebuilding your finances after a big loss like a hurricane. The details of dealing with insurance companies, contractors, and a mortgage company could fill a book. However, good advice is to be patient and persistent. And if you are a God-fearing person, prayer helps a lot too.

Posted by: Van Richards

Van is the founder of Advice4Retirement and Advice4LifeInsurance.

You can contact him at Follow on Twitter @VanRichards or Facebook at Advice4Retirement or Advice4LifeInsurance

Set Retirement Plan Expectations

Expectation is the conflict between frustration and reality. The first step to creating a low stress company retirement plan is a common understanding of everyone’s expectations. This includes all the entities involved in the retirement plan process. From the employees’ perspective, they see only the processes listed below in blue. However, the employer must look at a retirement plan from a very different perspective. The process in orange is a typical list of the people involved in the management of a retirement plan.


Knowledge of a customer’s needs is where satisfying expectations begins. Knowing the process necessary for a low stress company retirement plan is critical to fulfilling expectations. This is an outline of the operation of a company retirement plan.

  • Develop a retirement plan strategy
  • Design a plan to fit the business
  • Create a method of choosing and monitoring investments
  • Have a plan that is competitive within the company’s industry.
  • Manage the vendors that interact with the retirement plan.
  • Stay compliant with fiduciary standards
  • Provide education to employees that satisfies fiduciary requirements.
  • Manage employee communication.

Developing a strategy that will accomplish this process and be reasonably flexible is important. Businesses change, employee demographics changes, and regulations change so the operation cycle of a retirement plan must be able to change. The result is that customer expectations change too. The next step to fulling customer expectations is developing a retirement plan strategy.

To see the next step, check back for the next post in this series, The Company Retirement Planning Process or visit

Posted by: Van Richards

Van is the founder of Advice4Retirement and Advice4LifeInsurance you can contact him at Follow on twitter @VanRichards or Facebook at and


Buying Sight Unseen

Purchasing a car and life insurance online have many similarities.  People buy cars regularly sight unseen. You can go to Ebay or a national dealer like CarMax and find a car and have it shipped to you from anywhere in the United States. One of the most attractive aspects of buying a car online is you do not have to see a salesperson.  Like a purchase of a car online, buying life insurance online does not require you to see a salesperson either.   There are some lessons to be learned from car buying online that can help you when shopping for life insurance online.

If you purchase a car online, you want to see a picture.  How do you see a picture of a life insurance policy?  What you are insuring is your family’s financial well-being, that is the picture of a life insurance policy.


Let us put it into numbers.  With cars and life insurance, size of your family matters.  If you have a family of four, you probably will look for a four-door family vehicle.  If you have a family of four, your life insurance will need to settle your debts and replace your income if you are not in the picture any longer. Let’s add up a few numbers as an example for a young couple, both earning $50,000 a year.

$30,000 car note. The average new light vehicle priced by Kelly Blue Book is $34,372 [i].

$14,000 household debt. The Federal Reserve[ii]  says the average household debt is $14,452

$157,000 average mortgage. Business Insider reported this information from Experian [iii]

$28,950 average student debt. Reported by the Institute for College Access & Success [iv]

$490,680 cost of raising two children. Reported by The Department of Agriculture [v]

$10,864 Final expense cost as reported by CSG Actuarial & LIMRA [vi]

$ 253,622 Cost of educating two children at an in state four-year college [vii]

Using the life insurance calculator from the non-profit organization Life Happens and this average debt information you can estimate that one parent’s life insurance needs at $356,278[viii].   If you fill the calculator in with your personal information, you will probably come out with a different number.  The $356,278 gives us a point to use as an example.  Here is a screenshot of the calculations page so you can see how I arrive at the recommended life insurance amount.  This calculator is available for free at


To make our conversation easier, let us round the number up to $360,000.  In comparison, if you know you need a four-door car, you now want to look at the reliability of the manufacturer.  In selecting life insurance, if you know you need a $360,000 policy, this would be the point where you want to look at the suitability of the policy and the financial strength of the life insurance company.

There are dozens of websites on the internet to select life insurance companies.  Most of them require that you provide your personal information before you decide what life insurance company you want.  That is why I designed the life insurance calculator on to offer life insurance company options before you enter your personal information.  If you enter in some basic information, you can see which life insurance companies offer the policy for which you are shopping.


If you are shopping for a car, you do not stop at the price.  You look at manufacturer reports and surveys.  Most life insurance sales sites on the internet stop at this point and ask you to sign up.  Not so fast.  There are more questions to answer.  In buying a car, you look at the dependability of the manufacturer.  In life insurance, you look at the financial strength of the life insurance companies you are considering.  In some instances, there may be several life insurance companies that are only a few dollars apart.  If you see a life insurance company that you have questions about, the next step is to visit our ratings page at [ix]

On that page, I list three of the most prominent financial rating services and the Comdex rating along with their rating of dozens of insurance companies.  The Comdex rating takes all four of the most prominent financial rating services and cumulates them into a scale that goes from 0 to 100. The theory behind the Comdex rating is the higher the financial rating, the better the financial strength of the company.  Rating services charge a substantial fee for their rating, so not all insurance companies choose to be rated by all four rating services.

You can buy a car and life insurance online, however, that does not mean that you should not speak with the person from whom you are buying. If you found the right car at the right price, the next step that most people take is to call and inquire about the car.  That is the same thing that you should do when buying life insurance online.  After you have determined the amount of life insurance that you want, found the price that is within your budget, and narrowed the selection of the company down, it is time to complete the application and talk to the person from whom you are buying.  You do not have to submit payment to begin the application and you can back out of the application at any time.  Even after you buy the policy you have 30 days to change your mind and get a refund.  The attractiveness of buying online is that you do not have to meet with a salesperson.  It is much easier to say no thank you on the phone.  However, remember not to rush through the process. Verification and communication are vital. If you do both, you are well on your way to a smooth transaction and purchase that will protect your loved ones for many years.


[i] Kelly Blue Book. “New-Car Transaction Prices Increase Nearly 3 Percent Year-Over-Year In September 2016, According To Kelley Blue Book – Oct 3, 2016.” MediaRoom. Last modified September 2016.

[ii] Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Households and Nonprofit Organizations; Credit Market Instruments; Liability, Level – FRED – St. Louis Fed. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 2016. Accessed October 17, 2016.

[iii] Kiersz, Andy, and Libby Kane. “Mortgage Balance State Map.” Business Insider. Last modified October 14, 2014.

[iv] Institute for College Access & Success. “State by State Data 2015.” Project on Student Debt. Last modified 2015.

[v] U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Parents Projected to Spend $245,340 to Raise a Child Born in 2013, According to USDA Report | USDA Newsroom.” Newsroom. Accessed October 18, 2016.

[vi] CSG Actuarial. “Final Expense Insurance Sales Nearly $400 Million in 2013, Life Insurers Council and CSG Actuarial Report.” CSG Actuarial. Last modified September 8, 2014.

[vii] College Board. “Average Published Undergraduate Charges by Sector, 2015-16.” Trends in Higher Education. Last modified 2015.

[viii] Richards, Van. “Life Happens Life Insurance Calculator.” Advice 4 Life Insurance. Last modified October 18, 2016.

[ix] Richards, Van. “Ratings.” Advice 4 Life Insurance. Last modified October 14, 2016.


Love Insurance

If you have a business with a partner and/or you are a physically disabled business person, you can learn something from Christy and Daryel Dunaway.  Their story is one of love, commitment, and understanding.  Their love story began as a friendship and stayed that way for more than a decade until, as Christy says, “I understood that love was about having someone who loves you as you are—heart and soul.”

Daryel also knew at a deep level that he needed to protect his love for Christy on a financial level, as well as an emotional one. He and his friend John had started a business together, Handicapable Vans, which adapts vehicles for people with disabilities. It is something both men knew about from firsthand experience. Daryel had become paralyzed from the chest down in a diving accident at 15; John was a quadriplegic as well.

The partners arranged legally for the business to pass to the other if one were to die with a buy-sell agreement.  However, Daryel knew he also needed to ensure his wife would be taken care of financially. You might not believe insurance is available for a quadriplegic yet with the help of an experienced insurance professional, Daryel got the life insurance he needed and made sure he increased it as his business grew.

It was fortunate that both men were so adamant about getting—and increasing—that coverage. Daryel faced his life with joy and optimism, despite his physical limitations, but it was eventually his body’s inability to shake off a series of infections that took his life at 57.

Christy was overwhelmed with grief in the wake of his death. She credits Daryel’s life insurance with giving her time to grieve and then being able to move on with her life. “It meant I didn’t have to sell our home, which we had adapted to meet our needs,” says Christy. Also, she has opened her consulting firm, which had been a joint goal for the couple. “Life insurance has allowed me to take action on our dream,” she says.

To see Christy’s story visit my website at :–love-insurance-1.html


Could you afford a $400 unexpected expense?

Every year the United States Federal Reserve Board conducts a survey to gauge the public’s financial health. “a number of adults still indicate that they are experiencing financial challenges” (BOG, 2016). Here is a highlight of the problems faced by many:

47% could not cover an emergency expense costing $400.
31% put off medical care because they could not afford it.
20% spend more than they make
37% do not save money
32% cannot qualify for a credit card
44% that have a credit card carry a balance
20% have no bank account
23% have student loans
31% have no retirement savings or pension

I have a solution. I would like to give you a financial tool to get started solving your money problems. When you request the financial tool you will also receive regular information to help you better control your finances. Sign up for your free financial tool here

Thank you,

Van Richards

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. (2016). Report on the economic well-being of U.S. households in 2015.

Curing Cancer

Is the answer to curing cancer in a “moonshot” research effort or changing our habits?

In his last State of the Union Address, President Obama appointed Vice President, Joe Biden to head the “moonshot” effort to cure cancer (Obama, 2016). Biden’s part in this effort is to help eliminate controversy and obstacles that may stand in the way of advancements to finding a cure. This is an effort that has bipartisan support. Cancer is such a widespread disease that most people’s lives have been touched in one way or another by it. However, is a cure possible? By stepping back and taking a broad view of the past efforts to heal people, the answer to curing cancer may involve more than most people expect.

           The earliest recorded efforts to treat cancer dates back to 3,000 B.C. Writings on Egyptian papyrus from that time “describes 8 cases of tumors or ulcers of the breast that were removed by cauterization with a tool called the fire drill” (ACS, 2014). Treatments have improved over the centuries, although the approach to treating cancer and many other diseases is the same as it was 3,000 years ago. People want a magic pill; they want to take a very complicated issue and reduce it to one simple answer.

          The problem with this reductionism attitude is that the human body and diseases that affect it are incredibly complicated. In many scientific studies, the tactic is to take one component and attempt to see how one factor affects the overall body and disease. This is generally how modern medicine works. If a person has a medical problem, there is a pill for that. High blood pressure, there is a pill for that. High cholesterol, there is a pill for that. To its credit reductionism in medicine has produced many advances that have improved and lengthened the life of the average person. The reductionism approach to research has been used in the search for a cure to cancer with some good results. However, cancer is still one of the major diseases throughout the world, especially in the United States. Perhaps it’s time to widen the scope of the approach to reducing the number of cancer cases. Any decrease in the number of cancer cases is a victory to some family.

          In research studies such as the Nurses’ Health Study, over a quarter million female nurses participated (Nurses’ Health Study, 2016). One of the goals was to determine if fat in the diet had a connection to breast cancer. After investing millions of dollars in research that began in 1970 and ran for decades, the study produced very little information that correlated fat intake to breast cancer. The study determined that “breast cancer risk does not rise with increased intakes of fat, meat, dairy or saturated fat” (Campbell, 2005). The research project had a significant number of factors that were analyzed and produced masses of information. However when addressing the results of how fat intake affected breast cancer, one of the lead researchers Dr. Meir Stampfer, stated: “this has been our greatest failure – that we have not learned more about what people can do to lower their risk” (Marchione, 2001). Perhaps, the answer to reducing the incidence of cancer may not be in the treatment of one factor such as fat, it may be in changing the dietary lifestyle of society.

          To get a good understanding of how dietary lifestyle affects people, compare two studies of very different dietary lifestyles. Participants in The Nurses’ Health Study are primarily women from the United States that consume animal protein as a part of their diet. In that study, changes in the types and level of fat had no noticeable effect on the development of breast cancer. The study did not attempt to show the impact of animal protein versus plant protein in the development of cancer.   The Cornell China Study is a study of lifestyle and diet of thousands of people in China that primarily consume a plant-based diet. The New York Times called The Cornell China Study the “Grand Prix of epidemiology” (Brody, 1990). They went further to explain “Sixty-five hundred Chinese have each contributed 367 facts about their eating and other habits that could ultimately help them and Americans preserve their health and prolong their lives” (Brody, 1990).

          The Cornell China Study was lead by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University. Dr. Campbell’s research found that diets with lower concentrations of protein had a lower incidence of cancer. Dr. Campbell said, “dietary protein proved to be so powerful in its effect that we could turn on and turn off cancer growth by changing the level consumed” (Campbell, 2005, p.6). The study got even more precise by showing that not all proteins promoted cancer growth. “Casein which makes up 87% of cow’s milk protein, promoted all stages of the cancer process” (Campbell,2005, p.6). In the study, plant protein had no effect on the growth of cancer at all.

          If Vice President Biden wants to lead the effort to cure cancer, his efforts would be more productive if he and the government put more resources into helping people understand how animal protein and plant protein affects the human body. Living in one of the richest countries in the world has lead to Americans having some of the worst dietary habits. The challenge for Vice President Biden is to change the dietary habits of an entire nation. The consumption of animal protein is an enormous part the American economy. Companies such as Tyson Foods, ConAgra, Kraft Foods, Smithfield Foods, and General Mills have billions of dollars in revenue and employee thousands and thousands of employees. Their primary products are animal based. Their presence in the economy is politically and legislatively entrenched.

          Americans have a growing appetite for meat which in part is based on the marketing efforts of the meat industry that is sponsored by the US Government. The average American eats 128 grams of meat per day (Daniel, 2011, p 578). The public perception is that eating beef is healthy because the United States Government promotes it. “The Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985 directs the Secretary of Agriculture to implement a federal program to promote the marketing and consumption of beef” (Champoux, 2006, p.1108). The United States Department of Agriculture provides funds to assist with the general endorsement of beef consumption through a program referred to as a commodity checkoff program. A dollar from the sale of each head of cattle sold is a tax used for the promotion of beef consumption. The “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” (Champoux, 2006, p.1107) advertisement is a commodity checkoff advertisement campaign to promote beef as a healthy and versatile meal.

          The beef industry goes beyond advertising and creates its own research as propaganda. A study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that a dinner with beef is healthier than the average healthy American diet (Roussell, 2011, p.1). This study shows that the average American meal has 287 milligrams of cholesterol as compared to a meal with lean beef at 168 milligrams of cholesterol (Roussell, 2011, p.3). The perception that the study is communicating is a 41% decrease in food cholesterol is good. The only problem with that logic is 168 milligrams of cholesterol is still greater than zero which is the level of cholesterol in a plant-based diet meal.

          Higher cholesterol leads to obesity. The American Institute for Cancer Research recent report estimates that 351 cancer cases a day are connected to obesity (AICR, 2016). That brings up the question of why a research study would try to sway readers to think that beef is healthy. The study was funded by the government subsidized Beef Checkoff Program, which is a part of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a group that co-sponsors the “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” (Champoux, 2006, p.1107) advertising campaign. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study is biased because it was funded by the Beef Checkoff Program to promote the sale of beef.

          To be fair, almost all commodities in the United States have a check off program. For example, the “cotton, the fabric of our lives” (ACPI, n.d.) advertisement campaign is a commodity checkoff program. Programs like the beef, dairy, pork, poultry checkoff programs are the strongest and most heavily funded.

          Vice President Biden is supposed to lead the Nation to find a cure for cancer. Would he and the Nation consider anything less than an absolute cure a failure? Would a 20%, a 40% or even a 60% reduction in cancer be a success? Yes, any decrease in the incidence of cancer would be a success. A decline in the number of cancer cases diagnosed would mean more sons, daughters, mothers and fathers that would live longer healthier lives. Perhaps we need Meatless Monday, Tofu Tuesday, Watermelon Wednesday, Tomato Thursday, Frijoles’ Fridays, Soy Saturday and Salsa Sunday. For those that can accept the facts of the research, the answer to drastically reducing the incidence of cancer is the elimination of animal protein from their diet. Yet it may be unreasonable to expect everyone to change their dietary habits suddenly. Perhaps, with education and an understanding that changes in “dietary protein […] could turn on and turn off cancer growth” (Campbell, 2005, p.6) will help people begin to eat healthier and, reduce the incidence of cancer. It might not be the magic pill society is in search of; however it will help many people avoid cancer and live longer lives.


American Cancer Society. (2014). The history of cancer. Retrieved from

American Cotton Producers and Importers. (n.d.). Cotton, the fabric of our lives. Retrieved from

American Institute for Cancer Research. (2016). New estimates: obesity, overweight a cause of 351 cancer cases a day. Retrieved from

Brody, J. E. (1990, May 8). Huge study of diet indicts fat and meat. New York Times. Retrieved from

Campbell, T. C., & Campbell, T. M. (2005). The China study: the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted and the startling implications for diet, weight loss and long-term health. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books.

Champoux, M. (2006). Uncovering coherence in compelled subsidy of speech doctrine : Johanns v. Livestock Marketing Ass’n, 125 S. Ct. 2055. Harvard Journal OfLaw & Public Policy, vol. 29(3), pp. 1107-1108.

Daniel C.R., Cross, A.J., Koebnick, C, and Sinha, R. (2011). Trends in meat consumption in the USA. Public Health Nutrition, 14, pp 578. doi:10.1017/S1368980010002077.

Marchione, M. (2001, July 16). Taking the long view. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, p. 2G.

Nurses’ Health Study. (2016). Our story – nurses’ health study. Retrieved from Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital website:

Obama, B.H. (2016), State of the Union Address, Retrieved from The White House Website:

Roussell, M. A., Hill, A. M., Gaugler, T. L., West, S. G., Vanden Heuvel, J. P., Alaupovic, P., Gillies, P. J. (2011). Beef in an optimal lean diet study: effects on lipids, lipoproteins, and apolipoproteins. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.016261

Overcoming Obstacles to Controlling Money

Having enough money to live and pay debts are important concerns of many people. Managing money is a challenge despite personal income.  Bankruptcy proceedings disclose a lot about peoples’ spending habits.  Recently, Rapper 50 Cent indicated to a Connecticut bankruptcy court that he spends $108,000 per month which includes items such as personal wardrobe, child support, and gardening expenses (Nededog). In a business re-organization in 1990, presidential hopeful, Donald Trump agreed with his creditors to limit his monthly spending to $450,000. The New York Times reported, “Mr. Trump would have to hold his expenses to just $14,516.13 a day” (Eichenwald). On the other end of the income scale the average annual family income is $66,877, and that average family spends $53,495 in expenses to live (USBLS).  Without understanding how to control money, it is easy to see how over spending can happen.

There are four obstacles to controlling money: awareness of how money is spent, the time to learn about managing personal income and having the ability to cut spending or earn beyond current expenditures. There are a lot of famous people and everyday people that are challenged by the ability to manage their finances.  Making a lot of money is not an indicator that a person has the tools to manage their finances well.

People in our society are stretching their time thin and have little ability to make more money. Gallup, Inc. reports that on a weekly basis “half of full-time workers […]work more than 40 hours […] nearly 4 in 10 say they work at least 50 hours”(Saad).  So that brings up the question of how can a person have better control over their finances?

Creating a personal income statement can help develop an awareness of how money is spent. Make a list of all expenses.  There is no need for a complicated system.

This is a list of recognized expenses developed from the United States Justice Department’ Means Test (USDJ):

  • Food
  • Apparel and services
  • Housekeeping supplies
  • Personal care & miscellaneous
  • Healthcare
  • Out of pocket healthcare expenses
  • Health Insurance
  • Disability Insurance
  • Health Savings Account Expense
  • Housing
  • Utilities
  • Non- mortgage expenses
  • Transportation awareness of how money is spent
  • Vehicle Operation/public transportation expense
  • Taxes
  • Life Insurance
  • Court-ordered payments
  • Education for employment or physically or mentally challenged child
  • Childcare
  • Charitable Contributions

To create a personal income statement, transfer the past three months or whatever period is comfortable to an Excel spreadsheet or print a copy. Identify the expenses that occur every month and organize them in a way that is personally understandable. This effort will take some time; however that is a small price to pay for the benefits of better financial control.  50 Cent and Donald Trump probably have an accountant to do this for them however unless expenses and income are complicated that is not necessary.

Developing an expense spreadsheet will help bring out an awareness of exactly where money is being spent.  It should also serve as an indicator of essential items that money should be spent on such as life insurance, health insurance, and disability insurance.  The average family spends $5,726 on personal insurance and retirement plans (USBLS).  Plan for the unexpected events in life because they will happen with or without planning.

Family, work, self and community are challenges that use up the 168 hours a week that represents every person’s life.  Gaining control over personal finances can make that time happier and less stressful. Managing personal finances begins by gaining an awareness of where money is being spent; learn how to control expenditures and plan for the unexpected.

Works Cited

Eichenwald, Kurt. “Quick: Who’d Have Trouble Living on $450,000 a Month?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 25 June 1990. Web. 22 Oct. 2015.

Nededog, Jethro. “50 Cent Admits He Spends $108,000 per Month on Things like Grooming, Gardening and Clothing.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 4 Aug. 2015. Web. 22 Oct. 2015.

Saad, Lydia. “The “40-Hour” Workweek Is Actually Longer — by Seven Hours.” 29 Aug. 2014. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

Skidmore, Gage. “Donald Trump speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C.”. 10 February 2011. Wikimedia Commons.Web. 22 Oct. 2015

Westman, Rickard. “50 Cent @ Globen”. 27 December 2009. Wikimedia Commons. Web. 22 Oct. 2015

United States Department of Justice. “U.S. Trustee Program’s Postion on Legal Issues Arising Under the Chapter 7 Means Test.” 23 Apr. 2010. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Consumer Expenditures–2014.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

What do Andrew Carnegie & William Wrigley, Jr. have in common?


They were both in a business round table.  The modern day round table is synonymous with the first mastermind group, called the Big 6, which Andrew Carnegie, William Wrigley, Jr. and four other Chicago business executives began in the 1920’s. The combined income of these six executives was estimated at $25 million dollars in 1920.[1] In 2015 dollars, that would be about $310 million dollars per year! Forbes magazine says “Masterminds are incredible and can do wonders for your business as well as for you”.[2] An important key to the success of a business round table is establishing an ongoing format and starting the first meeting with details of what is to come. Well run business round tables have a very successful history.

Prior to the first meeting it’s important for all participants to have an understanding of what the group is about and what expectations they should have of the group. At the first meeting and anytime a new member joins the group; they should give a little information about themselves and that of their company. Each member should come prepared to discuss three things:

  1. Where do you need help?
  2. Bring a resource to share.
  3. Share an idea that is currently working for you and your company.

The question of where you need help is up to the member. Business issues at times intertwine with personal issues so members should be free to choose the topic for their time to speak. It’s important to remember that this is not a time to solicit other members. An acceptable exception is if the member wants to go over a sales presentation and get members’ feedback. Examples of topics to bring up to the round table are new product ideas, marketing campaigns, technical issues, legal questions, accounting questions, web design or any other issue that will help the members be more successful in running their business. Sharing a resource could be as simple as sharing with the group a new Smartphone app that helps them in their business. Sharing an idea that is currently working could be anything that your company is doing that is particularly successful.  The time each member has will be determined prior to the meeting and depend on the number of members in the meeting. The time to speak could be anywhere in-between 8 and 20 minutes. Each participant should conclude their time to talk with a short summary on what they are hoping to accomplish by the next meeting and be prepared to let the group know how those plans went at the next meeting.

Expect email communication in between meetings. The members should arrange to acquire a summary of the topics discussed and the goals for the next meeting for each member. They should also expect to be contacted prior to the next meeting to check in.

Establishing ground rules from the outset is important to the continued success of the group. Meetings must start on time, have specific time limits for each member to speak and end on time. One member should be responsible for keeping time. Where, when and how long each meeting is should be a consensus of the group.  Keeping the format and rules simple will help the meetings to run smoothly. The most important rules of the group are no negativity and all information discussed within the group is confidential.

Business round tables may have a lifecycle; they have a purpose and will not last forever. Keep these steps in mind for continued success:

  1. The group is a democracy.
  2. Know your role and don’t dominate the group.
  3. Keep good meeting manners.
  4. Maintain a repeatable structure.
  5. Respect time.
  6. Stay focused.
  7. Keep goals.
  8. Be disciplined.
  9. Know when the group’s usefulness has been fulfilled.

For more information about the CyFair Executive Round Table send an email to

[1] Vitale, Joe, and Bill Hibbler. “Getting Started.” Meet & Grow Rich. Hoboken: John Wiley& Sons, 2006. 39. Print.

[2] Burns, Stephanie. “7 Reasons To Join A Mastermind Group.” Forbes 21 Oct. 2013. Web

Seven steps to lower your out of pocket medical cost.

dollar sign on heart 2

When you are sick or injured and need to use your insurance, understanding the benefits and out of pocket cost can be very frustrating.  There are so many people involved in the medical care process that it is easy to become overwhelmed.  Here are seven simple steps to help you navigate the care and payment process.

1. Is your doctor still in your network?

Every time you go to your doctor, the first question is “has your insurance changed?”   When you set your appointment, you should ask if your doctor still accepts your insurance plan.

2. Is the lab your doctor uses in your network?

Most doctor visits will involve some sort of lab test.  Check with your insurance carrier to see if they have a preferred laboratory facility.  This can save you hundreds of dollars.  If your doctor takes specimens in their office, ask which lab they use.  If it’s it not a preferred lab with your insurance carrier, request that a preferred lab be used.  Laboratory costs are not usually covered by office charges.  Know before you go to save a lot of money.

3. Are you getting the best prices on medications? 

Pharmacy cost is one of the most significant expenses to medical care.  However most people don’t inquire about the medication cost unless they are paying the actual price of the medication.  It is worth your time to find the lowest price for a medication.  Controlling your cost will not only benefit you now, but it will help keep the cost down on your health insurance plan in the future.    One of the best sources for finding the lowest cost prescription drugs in your area is  There is an app available for this service as well.

4. If you need imaging test (MRI, X-ray, CT, etc) are you shopping?

The price difference for imaging is astounding, as much as 100% difference from one location to the next.  If location is important to you and you have time, scout out the location on Google maps.  Most locations will offer a street view with the map.

5. If you need outpatient or inpatient procedure is the surgery center in network?

Doctors work at a variety of different centers for surgery.  After speaking with the doctors representative for payment arrangements, it is important to contact the surgery center and inquire about their network status.

6. Is the anesthesiologist in the network?

Your doctor or the surgery center will be able to tell you who the anesthesiologist is and help you determine if they are in our network or not.  Remember if they are out of your network, you are responsible for 100% of what your insurance carrier will not pay.  That cost difference may be substantial so it’s worth the extra effort to check.

7. Do you need to shop for durable medical equipment (crutches, slings, special recovery items such as a Cryo Cuff).

Many surgical procedures will require special durable medical equipment.  Most doctors require the patient to make arrangement and payment for durable medical equipment prior to surgery.  Two questions for the supply center is do they offer a network discount and will they allow equipment not used after the surgery to be returned and credited to your account.

Healthcare cost tends to follow the 80/20 rule.  Eighty percent of the cost of healthcare can be attributed to twenty percent of those that are insured.  So if you are in that twenty percent population that is using hospital care, it would be in your best interest to try to control your cost.  The seven steps listed could save you thousands of dollars and a lot of grief.

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